Vacation rental debate shifts to paid signature gatherers

Posted at 6:09 PM, Aug 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-17 21:23:52-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The fight over the future of short-term vacation rentals in San Diego is now targeting paid signature gatherers hired by the largely Airbnb-funded campaign.

The campaign, called "Stand for Jobs, Stop the Vacation Rental Ban," needs to raise about 35,000 signatures to overturn the City Council's recent vote to limit short-term vacation rentals essentially to primary residences. 

A group of residents called the San Diego Community Working Group on Short-Term Vacation Rentals is now drafting a letter to multiple city officials alleging that the signature gatherers are misleading voters with false information about the regulations. 

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"You won't be able to do bed and breakfast, and then there's a huge emphasis on the amount of money on the fee. There is no fee for home sharing," said Gary Wonacott, a member of the group, giving examples of what he's heard.

There are now upwards of 200 signature gatherers around San Diego. On Friday, there were five of them spread across the Target shopping center on Sports Arena Boulevard.

LaKeisha Weaver says she is being paid more than $5 for every signature she gets. She says she goes from city to city to gather signatures for different issues and is living in a hotel this month to work on the short-term vacation ordinance in San Diego.

RELATED: Future of short-term rentals could go to voters

"We send rent home, we have children and families, et cetera," she said. "It's just like a traveling position."

Weaver says she tries to engage voters with a very brief verbal pitch and has official literature for them to read. But that strategy, employed by many signature gatherers, is leading to the concerns of inaccurate pitches to voters.

But it's unclear how common that is. 

Outside Target, one signature gatherer was calling to people by saying "Good morning, Sir," or "Good morning, ma'am." However, another outside Ralph's made a questionable claim that the ordinance would ban all bed and breakfasts. 

RELATED: Airbnb ruling could make more homes available

Jonah Mechanic, director of Share San Diego, which is involved in the signature campaign, said it is relying on well more than the paid signature gatherers. 

"There's a lot of local hosts doing events, doing fundraisers where they're gathering signatures, and raising awareness," he said. 

Weaver said she had about 17 signatures by 1 p.m. Friday. After some time in Sports Arena, she took an Uber to try to get more in Hillcrest.

If Airbnb gets the signatures, the City Council would either have to withdraw the restrictions or put them to a public vote.

Currently, the city's restrictions on short-term rentals are scheduled to go into effect in July 2019.